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Sarah Hoddsdon picture

Sarah Hodsdon is teaching our new Training Camp: Making for Moms.  When she isn’t making Supermoms, Sarah is an internationally recognized Mixed Media Artist, award winning Designer, Inventor, Media Personality, Author and Instructor.  Sarah has had the honor of being awarded Craft and Hobby Association’s Best in Show for License and Design and multiple Golden Press Kit Awards. In addition, Sarah has also been awarded Editor Choice awards at Maker Faire San Mateo 2011 and Maker Faire Detroit 2010.

Sarah doesn’t wear a cape or spandex, prefers jeans, t-shirt, work boots, copious amounts of coffee, and an apron. Sarah’s Nerf gun skills are the stuff of legend and when she isn’t teaching, she is raising 3 kids, chickens, dogs, cats, and organic veggies with her husband on their 10 acre plot of wooded paradise. On any given day Sarah’s studio is a cacophony of mechanical whirrs, fierce robots, awesome music cranked up, experimental crafting supplies, canvases in various stages, and a camera crew poking around hoping to catch the mysterious and ever elusive Jackalope said to live in the old fox den at the end of the zip line.

One project I am particularly proud of:

1. This is such a loaded question because I’ve made and/or been a part of, some pretty spectacular makings… to pick just one is like looking your 3 kids in the eyes and validating what they’ve figured all along… that yes, you indeed have a favorite child. I guess the one project that sticks out a bit further than others was the space I designed for Maker Faire a few years back in San Mateo. It stuck out for many reasons but, I think the main reason it is still a favorite is because so many people interacted with it and wanted to help construct it on site from the salvaged materials we had on hand, all adding their own fingerprints to it to make that kingdom their own. The idea was to take the story “The Nightingale” by Hans Christian Andersen and reconstruct the throne room (complete with an 8ft cage that “magically” grew from the floor) in cardboard and paper (as low tech as possible). We had a “make-n-take” birdcage card (that imitated the floor mechanism) that people of all ages came by to construct using nothing but scissors and patience. During our time together making, we talked about how storytelling sparks creativity and building with simple materials connects people to their humanity. To this day, I am still in awe of the stories folks share with me about their time in that booth- how sitting on a cardboard woven floor, surrounded by the most amazing technology and innovation, was their “take-away” moment from the faire. One can never underestimate the power that is created when you take the time to equip another to make for themselves… just incredible.

Two past mistakes I’ve learned from:

Past as in past or past as in 5 seconds ago because holy smokes do I have way more than just 2. I love living in a curation culture because in a way, something that was a flaming failure (literally because the scorch marks are still on the wall) yesterday can be re-classified and cataloged under a win tomorrow when the perimeters change. The things I keep glued to the proverbial table as “never forget” are things that I’ve had to accept can’t be fixed… which is really tough for a maker type.

1. Some people just want to know the time… not the whole process on how to build the clock. When I first started teaching in the craft industry I assumed *everyone* was equally geeked about making stuff and figuring out *exactly* how it worked as I was. I had a student ask me during class about a specific kind of ink and, of course, me wanting to give her absolutely all the information I knew on the subject… I explained it all, talking in gusts up to 115/mph. Naturally, she looked more flustered than swept away and she gave me a blistering review with the final words being, “I left never wanting to rubber stamp again.” Ouch. And it still stings. I learned that, I need to meet folks where THEY are at and not where I want to take them- give them the time and wait until they ask me on how I built the clock.

2. My second “never forget” involved an heirloom piece of furniture I thought needed cleaning when I was in my teens. In my tinkering audacity I had convinced myself that an old bookcase sitting in my Grandparent’s garage could be spruced up and then added to the inside collection of things… It took the better part of a week to strip every last bit of age from it’s shell and truthfully, I could have not been more proud of the job I had done, it was flawless and in exactly the way I had been taught. Needless to say, my Grandmother wept when she saw her now naked family bookcase in the driveway. I knew they were not tears of joy when my Grandfather leapt to her side to give her support and a place to bury her face. The heirloom American Revolutionary era handmade piece had effectively been stripped of almost all it’s value by my ignorant tinkering fueled by well intentions. I learned the importance of being “informed” before testing new skills and embarking on new projects and that some things simply do not need any improvements, they are as they should be.

Ideas that have excited me the most lately:

1. Makerspaces and the rise of disruptive education models. The rise of people (all ages) actively pursuing a self-initiated education from virtually anywhere on the planet is exciting. It means that people who want to learn something can go directly to the folks who know that most on that subject and be apprenticed right there via technology. I think it’s incredible. My children are cyber-educated through a virtual public school here in Michigan and I can tell you firsthand how it has changed the way we as a family approach education. Technology has allowed us to “hack” education and essentially create a hybrid classroom where one completes their course work and lectures with incredible teachers online and then couples it with hands-on learning in local makerspaces.

2. I am also completely smitten as of late with the whole idea of autonomous “self-assembly” and all the amazing surrounding “networked matter” and 4D. I am just blown away by the incredible minds that are working on this sort of fantastic (Autodesk, MIT, Stratasys) and I am not so secretly hoping that Bumblebee will feel compelled to self-assemble in my driveway from a sweet car into a kick-butt robot to help the kidlets build their trebuchet (a tad self-serving I know but, seriously folks, we are talking about networked matter) In all seriousness, ever since I heard a TED talk on the subject, its been haunting my imagination ever since.

3. E-Textiles and Wearable technology. I met an incredible woman (Lynne Bruning) a few years ago who had fashioned incredible wearable pieces of technology to show off at Maker Faire. From a young age, I had been taught various textile arts and sewing but, Lynne’s work was the first time I saw technology doing more than simply manufacturing the fabric or raw materials… the technology was a part of the finished end consumable. My mind was blown. Lynne has since become a dear friend and has continued to inspire some of the very best studio “I wonders” in me not only through her online videos (which my daughter completely LOVES) but, by introducing me to fabulous makers and the inventors of conductive things. What I love most about e-textiles and wearable technology is that it speaks directly to my daughter’s passion for fashion while it encourages pursuits in the fields of programming, engineering and technology. Conductive Paint, thread and anything AdaFruit are huge in my studio and always exciting.

Four tools I cannot live without:

Coffee is not a tool per say but, nothing listed below is useful in my hands until I’ve have had it so…

1. My Notebook (Rite in the Rain all weather notebook) and Permanent BIC Ultra-Fine Black Marker (so I can write on all surfaces under all circumstances)

2. This is technically not a “tool” but, Libraries… I am constantly having to research primary source documents for traditional making methods/formulas/patterns and even though Google rocks, nothing is more useful that a rare book stack and a librarian who knows all their little secrets.

3. Stanley. Stanley is my fully stocked tool chest that rides shot gun whenever I go anywhere. For those who are familiar with Portal, Stanley is my Companion Cube.

4. Steel-Toed Work Boots

Five People/Things that inspire my work:

1. My Family. I am blessed beyond measure to have had Great-Grandparents growing up, 3 living Grandparents now, incredible parents and in-laws, a Husband and our 3 makerspawn who ALL have an intense love of learning and tinkering. I could know no greater joy than to have my “work” be a shared passion across so many inter-connected generations and to live each day in a constant state of discovery.

2.  My Tribe. Iron sharpens iron and it is my deep seeded core belief that EVERYONE needs and deserves to be surrounded by folks who inspire the “better you never thought possible” out of you (kicking and screaming if need be). I am inspired daily by all the folks my “job” has me working with… incredible Makers, Artists, Musicians, Inventors, Writers, Dreamers, and Doers. I think it is almost impossible to be in the presence of absolute incredible and not have a little bit of their contagious passion rub off on your world.

3. My Heroes. The timeline of history is dotted with ordinary people who managed to do extraordinary things, who filled their days beyond the marks on a calendar. I have so many heroes, people I want to soak in and emulate for so many reasons…. It’s like that “What 10 people from past or present would you invite to dinner question,” you know the minute you finally decide on the guest list, you’ll change your mind so, why not just live each day like a potluck and enjoy the incredible banquet of awesome History itself has prepared for you to taste and enjoy.

4. My Tunes. Music keeps me focused on my work and my studio humming along.

5. My Farm. There is something truly profound about walking around Nature and witnessing life doing exactly what it was purposed to do. It is amazing at how many problems are solved in a sunrise and how many ideas are hidden in the constellations.

Parker Thomas

Parker leads the team that keeps makezine.com and makerfaire.com running. He used to build two-seat, 200 mph airplanes and now focuses on treehouses, zip lines, Lego dioramas (Hogwarts and Tattooine), pens and anything else his kids want to build. He can be reached at [email protected]


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